An international study has produced a promising treatment from banana protein which has proven effective against all known COVID variants and flu in animal testing.
The COVID treatment worked in animal models whether delivered systemically or through the nose, either prophylactically or therapeutically, early on in the illness, the University of Michigan Medical School explains in a blog post.
The initial study, published in early January 2020, announced that a compound modeled on a protein found in bananas safely protects against multiple strains of the influenza virus.
“At the time, we thought MERS would be the big target, which we were worried about because of its 35 [percent] mortality rate,” said David Markovitz, M.D., professor of internal medicine, Division of Infectious Diseases at the University of Michigan Medical School.
“When COVID-19 occurred, we of course wanted to study the therapy’s potential and discovered it was effective against every type of coronavirus, in vitro and in vivo,” Markovitz added.
Now, his team hopes to see the treatment go into testing in humans, as they envision a nasal spray or drops that can be used to prevent or treat coronavirus and influenza infections in seasonal and pandemic situations.
COVID treatment’s potential effect on cancer cells
The treatment’s drastic component, H84T-BanLec, holds unique promise, according to the team, because unlike other existing treatments for SARS-COV-2, it is effective against all coronavirus variants as well as influenza strains.
H84T-BanLec is derived from a lectin protein isolated from banana fruit, which features remarkable viral-blocking abilities.
It binds to high-mannose glycans, polysaccharides that are present on the surface of the viruses, but only very rarely on normal healthy human cells. After binding, the virus cannot enter cells to infect them.
Although lectins are known for their antiviral potential, they are generally avoided in the design of treatments because they could trigger harmful immune responses, but, in this study, scientists modified H84T-BanLec accordingly to remove the risk.
Researchers also hope to examine the use of H84T-BanLec against cancer because cancer cells, like viruses, also have high mannose glycans on their surfaces which could be targeted by the banana-derived lectin.
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